Some local families got an early holiday present this past weekend, courtesy of the Mouse House.
Disney offered an advance screening of its latest animated film — appropriately titled “Wish” — at Tysons Corner Center on Saturday (Nov. 18) to beneficiaries of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the nonprofit that grants requests from kids with critical illnesses.
The 11 a.m. screening at the AMC Theatres in Tysons drew more than 150 attendees, according to a Disney spokesperson.
“At Disney, we’ve always believed in the magic of making wishes come true,” Lisa Haines, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility at The Walt Disney Company, said in a statement to FFXnow. “Our relationship with Make-A-Wish has spanned over four decades, and it’s a testament to our commitment to delivering joy to children and their families.”
Launched in 1980, Make-A-Wish began in Phoenix, Arizona, after the community united to support a 7-year-old boy with leukemia who wanted to become a police officer. The nonprofit has now granted more than 520,000 wishes worldwide, according to its website.
The Mid-Atlantic chapter, which encompasses the D.C. area, was founded in 1983 and has granted more than 11,000 wishes to kids diagnosed with cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses.
According to Make-A-Wish, it has been partnered with Disney since its inception, and one out of every two requests from kids in the U.S. are fulfilled by the company that has become synonymous with childhood entertainment.
Disney conceived of “Wish” as an homage to classics like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and “The Little Mermaid” to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney Animation Studios, though early critical reviews suggest it struggles to capture that past magic.
Directed by “Frozen” alums Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn from a script by Jennifer Lee and Allison Moore, “Wish” follows a girl voiced by Oscar winner Ariana DeBose who must save the fictional kingdom of Rosas from its villainous king. She gets help from “a little ball of boundless energy called Star” that she brought into existence with the titular wish.
The movie officially opens tomorrow (Wednesday), but screenings will get underway at the AMC in Tysons and other local theaters this afternoon in anticipation of Thanksgiving weekend, which is typically a busy period for moviegoing — at least in pre-pandemic times.
A nonprofit dedicated to providing resources for Northern Virginia’s LGBTQ community has officially chosen Oakton for its headquarters.
After operating as a pop-up for 18 months, NoVA Prism Center opened its first physical offices at 10467 White Granite Drive, Suite 322, on Nov. 1. Open by appointment from noon to 7 p.m. daily, the headquarters hosts a publicly accessible library, a clothing closet and events, along with the organization’s administrative base.
“With the public opening of NoVA Prism Center, we will give our community a place to come together, learn, and thrive with access to stories about queer lives, bodies, and history,” Executive Director Leon van der Goetz said in a statement. “While we will not stop our Library Pop-up programming, our goal is to provide access to our community year-round, because the need for connection and representation doesn’t stop at the end of June.
Founded in May 2022, NoVA Prism was created by local transgender educators and activists after book challenges in 2021 led Fairfax County Public Schools to temporarily remove Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer: A Memoir” and Jonathan Evison’s coming-of-age novel “Lawn Boy” from library shelves.
With schools and libraries across the U.S. continuing to face pressure to ban books, particularly ones that deal with race, sexuality and gender identity, NoVA Prism wants to ensure the local LGBTQ community has access to books and other resources going forward, its website says.
Prior to opening its headquarters, the nonprofit appeared at local Pride festivals and other events, including ones hosted by Fairfax County Public Library. It has also brought a pop-up library to businesses and community groups, such as Reston Museum.
The organization announced the location for its new headquarters at an inaugural “Coming Out Gay-la” fundraiser in Reston on Oct. 20.
Van der Goetz says NoVA Prism Center chose 10467 White Granite Drive as its headquarters because the building already houses several other nonprofits, including ServiceSource and the Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons, “whose communities frequently overlap with our own.”
“The opportunities for collaboration and connection, intentional architecture supporting the Disability community, and access to a shared community classroom and conference rooms to support our programs made the space ideal for meeting our needs,” he told FFXnow.
The nonprofit is continuing to fundraise to bring more events and resources to its new center. In addition to accepting donations through its website, it publishes a zine called The Lantern that focuses on the experiences of LGBTQ teens and adults in the D.C. area.
A nonprofit that has been serving free meals made at Lewinsville Senior Center throughout the COVID-19 pandemic hopes to establish a permanent presence at the McLean facility.
Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS), which operates the senior center at 1613 Great Falls Street, applied in late 2022 for a special exception amendment that would let SevaTruck Foundation keep using the center’s kitchen to cook, store and package food.
NCS is now seeking public input on its partnership with SevaTruck. It will host four information sessions on the application, starting with a virtual meeting on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“SevaTruck serves a crucial role in addressing hunger and food insecurity and has a deep understanding of the communities it serves,” NCS said in a press release announcing the meetings.
SevaTruck provides “free, fresh, nutritious warm meals to children attending Title 1 Schools and…living in historically low-income, marginalized communities across Fairfax County and the Washington DC, metropolitan area,” according to a statement of justification for the application.
Areas served so far include McLean, Tysons, Reston, Herndon, Fairfax, Annandale, Falls Church and Alexandria. The nonprofit also has chapters in Richmond, Michigan and the San Francisco Bay Area.
The D.C. area chapter began operating out of Lewinsville Senior Center early in the pandemic after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors declared a local emergency, which suspended zoning requirements that would “preclude a temporary modification to an activity, use, or structure where the Zoning Administrator determines the modification is needed to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and its impacts.”
However, the county’s official state of emergency for Covid ended on March 1, giving SevaTruck and other organizations or businesses operating under an emergency waiver 12 months to obtain the approvals and permits necessary to continue.
In the application, NCS regional manager Karen De Mijango says two SevaTruck employees work out of the senior center Monday through Friday, preparing 1,800 meals a week that are delivered to around 1,400 Fairfax County residents both on-site and off by an 18-foot-long food truck.
“Meals are either picked-up from the senior center by partners, delivered in either a personal car, or in the food-truck,” De Mijango wrote in the statement to the county’s zoning division. “Partners picking up from the center does not cause disruptions to the senior programs. SevaTruck uses the backdoor of the kitchen to load/unload with a cart-roller.”
She noted that SevaTruck is seeking to expand by boosting its base of volunteers to assist with off-site food distributions, but no increase in staff is planned.
The application is currently scheduled to go to the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a public hearing on Jan. 24, 2024. Two more virtual information sessions will be held on Dec. 12 and Jan. 11, and an in-person meeting is planned at the senior center on Jan. 9.
A hearing before the Board of Supervisors, which is responsible for approving the application, hasn’t been scheduled yet.
The mission of the Lorton center is to enhance the quality of life for clients by providing food, basic needs, and self-sufficiency programs.
“The Lorton Community Action Center has had a longstanding relationship with the Junior League of Northern Virginia,” said Rob Rutland-Brown, executive director of the center. “We are thrilled that JLNV is stepping into an even more generous role – these donations will ensure that women have access to necessary period products whenever they need them,”
The deepened partnership is part of the Junior League’s new focus: Women Helping Women, a commitment to providing essential services and professional development training opportunities for women and families in the community, according to a news release.
Michelle Freeman, president of the Junior League, noted that statistics show that 20% of women in the Washington area live in poverty.
“Lack of access to period products is often a hidden consequence,” she added. “Our partnership will provide much-needed period products in our local area and really embraces our new focus area.”
Finding sufficient, quality food remains a challenge for many people across the D.C. area, even with the immediate economic disruptions triggered by the pandemic in the rear view mirror, the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) says in a new report.
Released last month, the nonprofit’s 2023 Hunger Report found that the region is still seeing elevated levels of food insecurity that are nearly identical to what was reported a year earlier. In Fairfax County, 24% of residents are food insecure — the exact same percentage as in 2022.
CAFB didn’t start issuing its annual hunger reports until 2020, making a direct comparison to pre-pandemic years difficult, but the amount of food it distributes in the county has risen from 5.2 million meals in 2019 to almost 7.2 million this year, as of mid-September, indicating more need. Meal distributions peaked at more than 9 million in 2022.
“While signs of improvement seem to be everywhere in our economy over the past twelve months, there’s a far different story unfolding for over a million of our neighbors,” CAFB president and CEO Radha Muthiah said. “This year’s Hunger Report makes clear that food insecurity and economic inequity are still enormous problems in our area.”
Overall, about 32% of D.C. area residents are food insecure, including 18% who are severely food insecure, according to the 2023 Hunger Report, which is based on data collected between May 2022 and April 2023.
The only surveyed jurisdiction with less food insecurity than Fairfax County was Arlington, where 17% of households struggle to find food — a decline from 21% in 2022. Prince George’s County had the highest rate at 45%.
Other notable findings from CAFB:
- Food insecurity is more prevalent among Black (47%) and Hispanic (52%) respondents than white respondents (14%)
- About 82% of food-insecure households are low-income, which is defined as earning $83,000 a year or less, but 1 in 5 families who earn the area’s median income of $120,000 still experience food insecurity
- 76% of food-insecure individuals are employed — a higher rate than the one for food-secure individuals (73%)
- 10% of children are experiencing food insecurity, a lower rate than the general population that the report attributes to parents prioritizing feeding their kids over themselves and access to school meals
The lack of improvement in the region’s food insecurity levels, despite signs of a strong recovery for the U.S. economy, reflects “the pandemic’s ongoing impacts on employment, high rates of inflation, and the rollback of…government assistance programs,” such as the emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits that ended in March, the 2023 Hunger Report says. Read More
The annual fundraiser will take place on the Plaza at Tysons Corner Center (1961 Chain Bridge Road) from 8-11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9. Proceeds will benefit Food for Others, a Merrifield-based nonprofit that collects and distributes food for people in need.
Interested runners can register online at $35 for the 5K or $30 for the fun run. There are also options to enter both races at a 15% discount or participate as a virtual runner through Sept. 16.
“With your $35 race registration, you provide 21 families with a gallon of milk, 7 students with weekend meal packs, or 1 family with 3.5 days worth of meals,” Tysons Corner Center said.
After exceeding its $90,000 fundraising goal last year, Food for Others anticipates getting about 550 participants this year and aims to raise $100,000. As of yesterday (Wednesday), the organization had reached $42,347, according to the event registration page.
In addition to the registration fees, the funds come from donations and sponsorships.
In addition to the races, the event will feature food and drinks from local vendors like Nothing Bundt Cakes, Compass Coffee, 29 Diner and Wawa. The nonprofit Forever Changed Animal Rescue will have dogs on site available for adoption.
Founded in 1995, Food for Others provides food for over 3,000 households and 3,700 students on average every week.
With the area seeing an increased need for food assistance since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the nonprofit expanded its warehouse at 2938 Prosperity Avenue with a new grocery market where clients can pick out their food. The market officially opened on Feb. 9.
Nearly 81,000 people in Fairfax County identify as food insecure, according to Food for Others. In addition to having its central warehouse, the nonprofit distributes food through neighborhood and mobile sites, community partners, and a program that gives meals to students for the weekend.
“We’ve received such passionate and heartfelt support from our community,” Food for Others Executive Director Annie Turner said. “Hosting our 10th Annual 5K is a testament to the incredible community, volunteers, and partners we have — driven by our shared passion for helping our neighbors…Together, we have made such a positive impact and we are looking forward to many more years ahead.
As the upcoming school year approaches, many families face the difficult task of purchasing a lengthy list of school supplies when money for housing, food and other life necessities is already stretched thin.
One local organization is working to alleviate this stress for thousands of Fairfax County families.
Fairfax-based nonprofit Britepaths is seeking community donations for its Back to School Drive, which can be made through its website until Aug. 31. Checks, made out to Britepaths, can also be mailed to 3959 Pender Drive, Suite 200, Fairfax, Virginia 22030 with “BTS23” as the memo line.
The funds will provide new backpacks and school supplies to 2,500 Fairfax County Public Schools students in need, according to a press release. A donation of $25 will provide supplies and a backpack for one student.
“It is incredible to think about the fact that Fairfax County is one of the five wealthiest counties in the country, and yet one in 14 children in our community lives in poverty,” Britepaths’ Executive Director Lisa Whetzel said. “…Community members who sponsor students in our Back to School campaign are doing so much more than providing supplies and backpacks. They’re helping young people whose lives can be stressful start off the school year with confidence, dignity and the tools they need to succeed.”
Recipients of these supplies include elementary schools — Daniels Run, Eagle View, Providence, Willow Springs, Bailey’s Upper and Glen Forest — as well as high schools like Fairfax, Fairfax Adult, Justice, and Lewis.
Organizations may also choose to sponsor or cosponsor all students at a specific partner school. This year, local car dealership Jim McKay Chevrolet chose to sponsor Willow Springs students.
“Our personal connections to Willow Springs Elementary School and knowledge of the work that Britepaths does made it an easy decision to become a sponsor for Britepaths’ Back to School program,” Jim McKay Chevrolet President Kathy McKay said. “We hope the community will join us in supporting this effort to ensure that students are ready to learn at the start of the school year.”
Britepaths has been supporting Fairfax County and Northern Virginia residents in need since 1984. It aims to “stabilize families with supplemental food and financial assistance” and “build resilience through financial education and workforce development coaching and IT training,” the press release says.
In 2023, the nonprofit assisted 11,000 individuals in over 7,000 households using community funding and volunteer support.
For more information, Britepaths can be reached by phone at 703-273-8829 or by email email@example.com.
Like many organizations, The Arc of Northern Virginia is rethinking its approach to office work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The local chapter of the national nonprofit, which provides services and advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will move its headquarters to the recently opened Venture X coworking space at 3060 Williams Drive in Merrifield.
The new address will be effective starting Aug. 7.
With the lease for its current base at 2755 Hartland Road set to expire after 10 years, The Arc says the new space in Venture X will be more flexible and cost-effective. Many of its 28 employees have adopted hybrid schedules, working partly at the office and partly at home or other remote locations.
“The pandemic-related shutdown, the option of web-based and technology driven programming, and the wide adoption of more flexible on-site work requirements made us look seriously at how much office space we really needed,” The Arc of Northern Virginia Executive Director Melissa Heifetz said. “Our new office not only reflects the societal changes in the workplace, I’m confident it will help us attract and retain a dedicated workforce.”
Heifetz added that the relocation won’t affect “the high quality of programming and services” that the nonprofit offers to over 39,000 individuals across Northern Virginia.
Founded in 1962, The Arc helps people with disabilities and their families navigate social services, serves as an advocate on local, state and federal issues that affect the disability community, and provides resources to both caregivers and clients seeking to live more independently.
The organization’s Northern Virginia chapter isn’t the only employer pursuing smaller or more flexible office space.
Some commercial property owners have responded by adding more amenities, while many developers have sought to replace or swap office space with housing and other uses. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a proposal last month to convert the former Inova headquarters in Merrifield — less than a mile away from The Arc’s new base.
(Updated 3:45 p.m.) Local charitable organization Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (4511 Daly Drive J) welcomed Sen. Mark Warner through its doors last week.
On Friday, June 16, Warner toured WFCM’s food pantry and warehouse in Chantilly and participated in a roundtable discussion with WFCM leaders and partners, such as the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services, Fairfax County Public Schools, Wegmans, Boy Scouts and Kings of Kings Lutheran Church.
WFCM primarily provides financial resources and free food and toiletries to residents of Fairfax County’s Sully District.
WFCM Executive Director Harmonie Taddeo says Warner had reached out to Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith to see how federal funding designated to the district during the COVID-19 pandemic has been used.
“What an opportunity for him to be able to see that this is how your money’s been spent, right?” Taddeo, who led Warner on the tour of WFCM’s facilities, said. “You approve these bills? Now, here’s literally the milk in the refrigerators that [those bills] paid for.”
In 2020 and 2021, WFCM received $1 million and $1.2 million respectively, from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Emergency rent assistance funds also granted WFCM $5.5 million in 2021, and the American Rescue Plan Act gave WFCM $257,588 in 2022 and $151,480 in 2023, according to a handout provided by the nonprofit.
These funds provided relief for WFCM, which saw a marked increase in need as soon as the pandemic hit.
“Before the pandemic, we were probably serving 300 families a month in the food pantry, and we spiked all the way up to 650,” Taddeo said. “Now we’re about 500 to 550 every single month…So the needs are just so much greater, and we think they’re going to take a long time to go back.”
With WFCM continuing to experience high demand for its services, Food Pantry Manager Kristine Hurt implored Warner to relay to Congress the significance of funding local food pantries like WFCM.
“I hope you see, beside our hearts, that we’re very efficient with money here,” Hurt said during the discussion. “And when you’re saying you need to cut things, I hope that you can go and share that this is a program that is using every dollar better than anybody else could in my opinion.”
Acknowledging the concerns over the potential decrease in federal funding for local food programs as emergency funds authorized during the pandemic dwindle, Warner told FFXnow that his office will continue to defend local organizations that had been assisted.
“How do we make sure that these great initiatives where we’re really stretching dollars don’t disappear because the Covid funds are going to run out?” Warner said. “…[We’re going to] see if we can do more in terms of direct investment, but also in terms of seeing if we can even give greater tax credit benefits.”
Warner also noted that he plans to continue using his platform to combat food insecurity locally through the Farm Bill, which he co-sponsored with Sen. Tim Kaine in 2018.
“Most of the food programs are actually funded through the Department of Agriculture and the Farm Bill,” Warner said. “[The Farm Bill] usually goes for five years — it sets up all the programs, things like these food relief programs…This is the year that it’s supposed to get renewed. So we’re trying to build in things like this challenge around food deserts.” Read More
The McLean Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD) will soon get a new and improved ambulance, thanks in part to the success of a recent “Kitchen and Garden Tour.”
The Woman’s Club of McLean, a local charitable group, presented a check with the $13,000 raised by the tour to the fire department on Monday (June 19), fulfilling a promise that got deferred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think most of us have had the benefit of calling the fire department,” Women’s Club member Kay Burnell said, recalling one time when her husband got ill and collapsed. “…Most of us have had an experience with them where there’s a fire or an accident, so we just felt we needed to support them and say thank you to them.”
Organized by co-chairs Burnell, Karen Moore and Silke Soff, the Kitchen and Garden Tour on April 27 gave community members a chance to explore the kitchens and gardens of houses on Ballantrae Farm Drive and Countryside Court at Holyrood Drive.
The Woman’s Club, which was founded in 1958, had organized a kitchen and garden tour just once before to raise money for veteran housing at the retirement community Vinson Hall, according to Burnell. The concept was revived this year as an alternative to the usual Holiday Homes Tour fundraiser, which has been on hold during the pandemic.
The pandemic also delayed MVFD’s 100-year anniversary celebration, which got pushed from 2021 to 2022. The Woman’s Club had planned a fundraiser for the department in 2020 to support the festivities.
“Because of the pandemic we were unable to raise the money,” Burnell said. “This year we tried again and happily were able to make good on our promise of 2020.”
The change in timing turned out to be fortuitous for the fire department, which is looking to add a fire engine after acquiring the new ambulance.
With a total price tag of $335,000, the ambulance is expected to arrive later this summer or early fall, according to MVFD President Patricia Moynihan. The department also raised funds through donations, Christmas ornament sales and other activities, including taking out a loan.
Replacing one of the department’s two ambulances, the new vehicle will be a “state-of-the-art piece of apparatus,” Moynihan says.
“We’re super excited and I know the ladies have worked really hard on this, and so we’re really appreciative,” she told FFXnow.
According to MVFD Emergency Medical Services Captain Lynn Clancy, one of the biggest improvements will be the addition of a power load cot system.
“We are always looking to improve safety and this system will use mechanical lifting to move the stretcher into and out of the ambulance,” Clancy said. “It is safer for the EMT/Paramedics and the patients. Back injuries are the biggest career-ending injuries in EMS. Additionally, under our capital equipment replacement plan, it is time to replace one of the existing, heavily-used vehicles, which is becoming unreliable.”
The new engine will cost about $500,000, half of which will be covered by Fairfax County, Moynihan says. The volunteer fire department hasn’t started fundraising for its half of the costs yet, though the Woman’s Club likely won’t be as involved as it was for the ambulance.
According to Burnell, the organization typically gives equal amounts to the different charities it supports, so another big fundraiser for the MVFD isn’t in the works.
However, a repeat of the Kitchen and Garden Tour may be on the table for next year. After experiencing a decline during the pandemic, the Women’s Club has seen an uptick in members since this year’s tour, which Burnell says “was such a festive day and was so well-received.”
Those who miss the traditional Holiday Homes Tour, which saw volunteers decorate houses in McLean for participants to visit, can rest assured that the club feels the same way.
“We’ve done it for over 55 years. So, we’re very hopeful that we can do that,” Burnell said. “If we can’t, then probably we will do this kitchen garden tour as our main fundraiser.”
Photo courtesy MVFD